Salvin’s albatross (Thalassarche salvini)

Also known as: bounty albatross, Grey-backed albatross
Synonyms: Diomedea cauta salvini, Thalassarche cauta salvini
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderProcellariiformes
FamilyDiomedeidae
GenusThalassarche (1)
SizeSize: 90 cm (2)
Wingspan: 2.56 m (3).

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1) and listed on Annex 1 of ACAP (2).

This medium-sized, black-and-white albatross (2) has only recently been considered a distinct species and separate from the shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta) (3). Adults have a pale grey head, throat and upper mantle, paler on the crown, and a dark grey to black back, upperwing and tail. In contrast, the rump and underparts are snowy-white except for a narrow dark border to the underwing and a distinctive black ‘thumbmark’ at the base of the underwing’s leading edge. The legs, feet and beak are an inconspicuous pale grey, with a pale yellow upper ridge to the upper bill and a dark spot at the tip of the lower bill (2).

Breeding occurs on nine islands and islets in the Bounty Islands (99% of total), Western Chain in the Snares Islands, and possibly The Pyramid in the Chatham Islands, New Zealand. The species has also bred at least once on Ile des Pingouins (Crozet Islands, French Southern Territories). Non-breeding birds range widely through the south Pacific, with large numbers found along the Peru Current (2). Scarce in the southern Indian Ocean (2), and only a rare visitor to the South Atlantic (4).

Breeds on just a few small barren and rocky islands, and otherwise occupies the open oceans (2) (3).

Salvin’s albatross is thought to breed annually, with adults returning to their breeding colonies in September, where nests are densely constructed in close proximity (one nest per 1.9m²). Eggs are laid in early October and begin to hatch in early to mid-November, with the chicks fledging the following spring in late March to early April (4).

Breeding adults forage over the shelf waters around the colonies (4), and feed mainly on fish and squid (2).

The islands on which Salvin’s albatross occurs are fortunately free from introduced predators, but are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events. Albatrosses are notoriously susceptible to becoming entangled in fishing equipment whilst feeding on baited hooks or catch. Small numbers are known to be killed by tuna longliners in New Zealand waters, but this bird may also be exposed to longline operations elsewhere in the Southern Ocean. Gradual ocean warming as a result of global warming and climate change could pose a potential threat in the future, through impacting food availability for the birds (2).

All the islands on which Salvin’s albatross occurs are nature reserves, with the exception of The Pyramid, which is privately owned. In 1998, the Snares and Bounty Islands were declared part of a World Heritage Site (2).

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2006)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (October, 2006)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3962&m=0
  3. USGS (October, 2006)
    http://www.absc.usgs.gov/research/seabird_foragefish/photogallery/Picture_of_Month/Feb06-Salvins_Albatross/Feb06-Salvins_Albatross.html
  4. Australian Government Department of Environment and Heritage. (2001) Recovery Plan for Albatrosses and Giant-petrels. Wildlife Scientific Advice, Natural Heritage Division, Environment Australia, Australia. Available at:
    http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/albatross/index.html